Getting ready for a storm is critical. Building a plan can help you stay safe, mitigate damage and make the recovery process as smooth as possible. This MasterKit will guide you through the steps you should take ahead of time, so you'll be ready to take action when a storm hits.
How to Create a Storm Safety Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you live in Tornado Alley or the hurricane-prone coast, you can't avoid major storms. But we have the information to help your family create a comprehensive plan that will make sure you're safe if a major event strikes.
The best time to figure out how to deal with a tornado or hurricane is before one ever hits. Be proactive and set up a storm safety plan so you and your family know where to go, what to do, and who (and when) to call in a worst-case scenario.
1. Take Early Precautionary Measures
The first thing you need to do for your storm safety plan is to get ahead of the storm.
Sign Up for Storm Alerts: Many communities and counties send out text and email alerts during major storms to residents who have signed up with emergency alert systems. These notify residents of storms and other emergencies via telephone, cell phone, and text message when you they need to seek shelter. To find out if there's a system in your area, simply search online for your county or city and the word "alerts." Make sure to add the alerts to children’s cell phones as well.
Build a Storm Emergency Kit: Your storm emergency kit should include supplies you might need while you're sheltering from a hurricane or tornado, or if you lose power for several days after a major storm. It should definitely include things like cash, non-perishable foods, water, a first-aid kit, and more. Keep your storm emergency kit in your home's safe room.
2. Designate a Safe Room
For most storms, you'll likely be sheltering in place, so you need to choose a safe area indoors where you and your family know to go in case of emergency. But where you go will depend on the type of storm:
Hurricane: If you're in a hurricane-prone area, choose a room like a walk-in closet or a bathroom at the center of your home. It should be away from exterior doors and windows on the lowest level.
Tornado: To shelter from a tornado, you’ll want a designated storm shelter, 2a room in the basement, or an area at the interior of the house on the lowest floor away from windows, doors, and outside walls.
3. Have an Evacuation Plan
In the case of major hurricanes, it's often too dangerous to stay at home, and emergency management officials issue mandatory evacuation orders to protect residents and first responders. Be sure you have plans set in place to evacuate, including:
Know in advance what the evacuation routes are. You may lose cell phone or GPS service, and traffic could be at a standstill. It's best to know the fastest way to safety before there's an emergency.
Have a safe spot you can stay at if you need to leave town. Ideally it will be a relative or friend's house out of harm's way, as hotels will likely book fast. Make sure everyone in your family knows where it is and how to get there. If you have to go to a shelter, the Red Cross can help you locate open ones in your area.
Pro Tip: Fill your gas tank as soon as you hear a hurricane is coming. Make sure you have your car emergency kit in your trunk, as well as printed road maps in case you lose cell phone service.
4. Select Two Meeting Places
If you're at work, your kids are at school, and a major tornado strikes your neighborhood, it may not be safe for you to go home. That’s why you need to choose a few spots close to home to meet up, if it's possible.
Choose one spot near your home, such as the neighborhood school or park and only go there if it's safe.
Designate a second spot farther outside your immediate area, like a church or school that could shelter you in the interim if necessary.
5. Create a Communication Plan
During and after a major hurricane or tornado, family members could become separated, especially if you have to evacuate or shelter outside of your home. And if there is major damage in your area, you will want a good communication plan to get in touch with everyone to be sure they are safe. Without a plan, tracking down family members can get stressful. Here's how to put one together:
Designate two point-people that every family member can text or call when a major storm watch or warning is issued. Everyone should get in touch right after the storm ends.
If phone service isn't working after the storm, get in touch vie email or social media like Facebook or Twitter.
Select a relative or friend outside of your area that everyone can contact in case you can't reach each other.
Give a prepaid phone card to all family members that don't have a cell phone.
Pro Tip: People with disabilities or other special needsshould create a storm safety plan tailored to their specific needs. Check out Ready.gov for advice on exactly how to create one.
6. Don't Forget Your Pets
If you have pets, make them part of you storm safety plan, too. Many often scare during storms, and may run away or hide. You should:
Create a storm emergency kit just for your pets, including food, water, cat litter and box for cats, medications, photos of your pets, contact information for your veterinarian, and the nearest animal hospital.
Have a soft crate that will travel in case you need to evacuate. And take your pet emergency kit with you.
Make sure they always wear a collar with their name, your name, and your phone numbers.
Pro Tip: Most disaster shelters don't allow pets, so be prepared ahead of time if you have to evacuate. You can check out Petswelcome.com for hotels along your evacuation route that are animal friendly.
7. Practice the Plan
Your storm safety plan will only work if you know how to put it into action fast. Once you've created the plan, schedule a family meeting and go over it. Make copies of the plan for adults and older children. Keep a copy of the plan in a public area of your house, like the refrigerator or on a bulletin board where it's clearly visible. Also, keep a copy in your cars' glove compartments.
Once you and your family develop a plan and practice it, you'll feel much more at ease about storm safety. Hopefully you won't have to put your plan into action, but if you do, you'll be able to stay one step ahead of the storm.